Taking on Tip Top

Here’s an email exchange I had with Tip Top.


Dear Tip Top

This is how my family enjoys your ice cream: whenever it is on special ($4.50 or less) we grab a 2L carton, usually vanilla. In an ice cream emergency, if there is no other ice cream on special and we have to pay full price, that’s when we treat ourselves to one of the flavours that doesn’t normally make it into the specials, usually Jelly Tip. So Jelly Tip (and one or two other flavours) are now being sold in 1.6 litre cartons, with no price difference to compensate. Tip Top has plummeted into Cadbury chocolate territory; in an attempt to look classy Cadbury made their chocolate bars smaller and thinner. Nobody is fooled and I haven’t met anyone who likes it. Please rethink this strategy. I’m sure it seemed like a good idea in the board room, with the words ‘bottom line’ and ‘profit margin’ written on the white board. You’ve fixed that awful, cheesy ‘happy people smiling’ lid art and the new branding looks great. But we won’t be buying Jelly Tip any more. Your ice cream rules, you don’t need to pretend it is more valuable than it already is. Especially at the expense of people who can’t justify the cost any more.

Formally a happy customer.

Marcel Currin


Dear Marcel

Thank you for your feedback regarding the change of four of our products to a 1.6L tub. Just to explain the changes, please be assured nine of our top selling favourite flavours including Hokey Pokey, Vanilla & Chocolate have not and will not change their pack size. These flavours will remain in a 2L tub. Only four flavours have moved to 1.6L and there are two reasons for this. Firstly, the reality that our ‘everyday favourites’ (e.g. vanilla, hokey pokey) had price-wise, been carrying the ‘family reward’ flavours (e.g. Gone Fishing, Goody Goody Gum Drops) for a while. In our view, moving the four ‘family reward’ flavours into a 1.6 litre tub was the fairest way to correct this. If all the pack sizes had stayed the same, the price of all products including ‘everyday favourites’ would have gone up, and we didn’t think this was fair on New Zealand families. Secondly, these changes also reflect what consumers have been telling us over the past year – they are buying plainer flavours for everyday use and more indulgent flavours for occasional family treats. To make these indulgent flavours more ‘treaty’, on average our ‘rewards’ range has 17% more inclusions added, like more Jelly in Jelly Tip and more Fish in Gone Fishing. Tip Top prides itself on using fresh NZ milk and cream and we’re committed to making all our ice cream right here in NZ, with quality local ingredients. While we regret that these changes may not be ideal, we feel this is the best way to ensure we can continue to deliver a great quality product at a fair price.


With regards

(full name supplied)


Hi Becs

Thanks so much for your quick response to my email, I really appreciate it. Your explanation is polite and straightforward. It also makes good business sense and I know that every business needs to change with the times (even one whose parent company appears to be Fonterra). But I’m still a bit grumpy. The fact is that I have never asked for 17% more jelly in Jelly Tip or for more fish in Gone Fishing. I’m quite happy with the jelly-to-ice cream ratio, and it bothers me somewhat that a smaller tub will now have more jelly in it. In effect you are altering the product, serving it in a smaller portion and charging more. How about we forget about the 17% extra jelly, go back to 2L tub and call it even? The reason I’m so passionate about this is because I love ice cream and so do my three boys. I’m not irresponsible about it; I’m fit, trim and healthy, and my boys (2, 4 and 6) are very active. We grow our own vegetables but we love our ice cream. For a single income family, if we’re going to treat ourselves to ice cream and I have the option of 2L or 1.6L for the same or similar price I will choose the 2L every time. (In fact, for around the same price I can probably get 2L of Cadbury’s Caramello icecream – which totally rocks. If they downsize their ice cream as they did with their chocolate I’ll be a very unhappy kiwi.) I suspect that your target market for the ‘family reward’ flavours has shifted to the double income no kids bracket. That’s Tip Top’s prerogative. The reality is that my family won’t be buying the ‘extra treaty’ flavours any more unless they go on special, and even then: 2L still wins. I do appreciate your reply. For the record, I wrote this while eating Tip Top’s new Hocus Pocus ice cream. Not bad, but I really would have prefered Jelly Tip.


Regards Marcel


Hi Marcel

thanks for your feedback it is appreciated. I have forwarded your comments to our Marketing team for their information. Please forward me your boys names so that I can send a Mega Milk drink bottle to them.

With regards



Hi Becs

They’d love that. (Not that I was complaining about a shortage of drink bottles.) Their names are Fletcher, Toby and Dante (oldest to youngest.) Righto, I’ve been boxing at lunchtime and cycled home from work this evening, time for some more Hocus Pocus.




Throwing darts at the King

Jesus lives in the attic.
I throw darts at him every day.
Please, Lord, don’t let it rain.
A small dart chucked at the ceiling.

He clings to the roof of the car.
I know he’s there on the other side.
A car park please, not too far away.
Another small dart.

Who’s that hanging
in the sky?
My Heavenly Dartboard,
who died for our requests.

The sun shatters against the horizon.
Clouds descend like vultures onto scraps of light.
Who to thank for this violent beauty?
Our Dartboard, who art in heaven.

We sing songs to the Dartboard.
We thank him that we can have a good time and laugh
when we’ve caught ourselves out for joking.
Meanwhile Jesus hides under the seats, giggling with the kids.

We throw around hallelujahs.
They bounce across the room like ping-pong balls,
popping between the (hallelujah) words (amen).
And so we pray:

Our generic god, who just really art in heaven
familiar is your name, lord
(lord father god lord
jesus father god) give us
everything we want
and forgive us our pleasures
as we pursue them anyway
for ours is the middle class
the convenience
and the lifestyle
forever and ever
by birthright or hire purchase.


First published in NZ Baptist

Lines composed for a neighbour after midnight

In what ego-centric universe
do you think the whole street
is happy to listen to your crap
compilation albums
all night long or, in fact, at all?

In which blind fantasy do you suppose
your neighbours to be muttering
cheerily into their pillows
good on them
tomorrow is a holiday?

With whose value system do you judge
your right to saturate the cul-de-sac
with noisy beer
against our right to sleep
or hold a conversation in our own house

Certainly, it is Easter and you can sleep in
which is why Christ rose from the grave
so you and your Lion Red friends
can party party.

Park your cars all over the footpath.
Yell fat fuckens across the night
through walls
of other people’s homes
and into children’s bedrooms.

A bloody good night, I heard from the street.
A bloody good night.
I fell asleep resolving to mow the lawns
tomorrow at the arse crack of dawn

right after trumpet practice.


First published in Bravado.

Practical advice for any climate

On a grey day she will carry a cloud
into the office and park it at her desk
where it can mind its own business.
Do not offer her an umbrella. She will get her own.

In stormy weather the wind will crack its head
against her resolve.
Take note of her position.
It is the best place to stand in a gale.

In questionable weather be sure
to ask for her direction.
Her point of view will cut the fog
into quivering halves.

On a sunny day she will poke holes in the sky
with a pen for something to do.
The light will land at peculiar angles.
Then she will laugh and the colours will dance
and you will probably want to borrow her pen
but by then there is very little point,
just put on your shades and tap along.


First published in Bravado


The piano tuner walked in like a vet to a sick horse

He opened the ribs of our silent upright.
Pressed a brown and curdled finger down.
A dissonant spirit pinged up through the frame.

He frowned and slowly twisted a nerve.
Notes yawned, stretched into line
one by one over criss-crossed wires.

Wooden noses pecked at his command.
Physician, technician, working at the heart
of my favourite machine.


First published in Poetry NZ

Opus 27, no. 2


Summer mornings are for Mozart:
droplets of sun on the beaks
of sparrows.

The simple elegance of his melody
laced up with frill upon frill.
You think that’s easy? Try this!

Twisting my fingers around
the next variation
I hear him giggle.


Beethoven is warm in a winter room,
a brooding fire,
black-eyed clouds at the window.

Rock music, a friend once said.
Stroppy rhythm, wind against the wall.
Slamming the off-beat.

Music spills across the keys.
Dark swells of notes.
Oceans breaking over the page.


Evening, deep in a nocturne
watercolour wash
sustain pedal down.

Semi-quavers curled around strings
the damp felt touch
of pale light

following Chopin
through the heart
of the piano.


First published in Poetry NZ